Interview: Dan Monsell, Festival Director at Pitchfork Music Festival London
Pitchfork Music Festival London 2023 boasts an incredible, eclectic line-up of artists performing at amazing venues across London. We grilled Dan Monsell – Festival Director/Head Booker – Pitchfork Festival London/FORM – on the inspirations behind Pitchfork London, programme highlights, dream bookings, and things to do in London…
We’re really looking forward to the third Pitchfork Music Festival in November – tell us about the inspiration behind the festival.
We were looking from afar in awe at the amazing Pitchfork Music Festival events in Chicago and Paris, and couldn’t understand why this wasn’t something that was happening in the UK. Luckily when we started speaking to the team at Pitchfork they felt very much the same, with it being one of their main areas of readership. It became clear really quickly we were all really excited about the idea of collaborating on a UK edition.
This was during Covid, so when we finally got to launch the first UK festival out of the back of this, it was such a great moment. It felt such a release for everyone involved being back, and creating some great one-off line-up journeys in some of the best venues in the city again. That reaction from audiences and artists itself just really inspired us to push things for the following years. Here we are in year three with a bigger festival series that allows us to get really creative with artists, platform and make performances really stand out and be super special in the UK in the Autumn.
We know it’s a bit like asking a parent to name their favourite child – but would you like to pick out any particular programme highlights?
It’s fantastic to be opening the festival this year with Ezra Collective’s first performance in their hometown since winning the mercury (7 November | Royal Albert Hall). The whole event promises to be a huge celebration of them, and how far jazz has come in the UK, with a sellout night at the Royal Albert Hall. Ryoji Ikeda is one of the most talented sound artists around so it feels such a one-off for him to play this year (8 November | Barbican Hall), otherwise there’s so much across the festival and the weekend multi-act festival bills across Dalston and the Roundhouse really allow you to get lost in discovering the most exciting new acts around. To finish with a closing headline event with Weyes Blood, and Ichiko Aoba and Vagabon (13 November – Eventim Apollo) will be very special, but honestly everything is unmissable across the festival.
Who would be your dream Pitchfork booking?
One of the really exciting things about the festival has been working with great celebrated labels & organisations such as PC Music, AD93, Harlecore or others on very unique take-overs, or creating one-offs for certain musical communities. It’s definitely something we’d love to find more ways to do in the future. Otherwise we’ll wait for the call for Radiohead or Beyonce to come do an album in full performance..! Perhaps something around some of the artists who have famously had 10/10 reviews on the Pitchfork.com website would be really fun.
Who or what inspires you – musically, or otherwise?
Luckily what makes us stand-out from other festivals is the collaboration with an army of fantastic editorial staff and writers at Pitchfork.com who have fantastic taste and are always unearthing some of the best new music around, from all genres. It’s a real joy to listen to what is reviewed and covered on Pitchfork.com and then add in a UK perspective. In an age where editorial forces are less around than before, it’s amazing to see much Pitchfork means to artists and music fans.
What are your favourite things to do in London?
Well, it’s great to take people on a journey around the city with some of the best cultural performance spaces in the capital across the festival, and we are slightly skewed east, generally, where a lot of the festival happens. So I’m going to shout out a few East(ish) music related spots – Spiritland in Kings Cross for vinyl DJs and drinks, Blondies in Clapton (and now Leyton) for great beers/rock and roll on the stereo /occasional gigs, and All My Friends in Hackney Wick for food/drinks and records too.
Don’t miss Pitchfork Music Festival London, 7-13 November 2023 – click here for tickets!
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.